[r72] A Clere view of the Statehouse: Let's build on our success (8/30/2010)

Monday, August 30, 2010

Start Date: 8/30/2010 All Day
End Date: 8/30/2010

The Indiana Housing and Community Development Authority may not be a household name, but households and communities throughout the state benefit from its work.

Under the leadership of Lt. Gov. Becky Skillman and Executive Director Sherry Seiwert, IHCDA leverages hundreds of millions of dollars in federal funds to promote affordable housing, homeownership and strong communities. Last week, the agency announced a new, progressive approach for administering those funds, and a top IHCDA official will be in New Albany next week to talk about opportunities for local governments, nonprofits, investors and contractors.

IHCDA Chief Operations Officer Mark Young will be at the Cardinal Ritter House, 1218 E. Oak St., at 6 p.m. Monday. I scheduled the meeting, which is open to the public, to raise awareness about $23 million that will become available July 1 for rehabilitation of owner-occupied homes statewide.

With cooperation and creativity, Southern Indiana should be able to secure a share of the money and use it to improve the quality of life for individuals and families, strengthen neighborhoods and put people to work.

Last fall, IHCDA awarded New Albany $6.75 million to purchase and rehabilitate foreclosed and abandoned properties in the S. Ellen Jones neighborhood. That effort is well under way, with the acquisition of dozens of properties in progress and work set to begin later this summer.

Existing homeowners will benefit from the overall improvement of the neighborhood, but many also need direct assistance to repair their own homes. The money that will become available July 1 could provide such help - not only for the S. Ellen Jones neighborhood, but also for other neighborhoods and communities throughout Southern Indiana.

Assistance is available based on household size and income. The income limit is 80 percent of area median income, which is established by county. In Floyd and Clark counties, the income limit for a one-person household is $34,450. For two people, it's $39,350. For four, it's $49,200.

Issues that affect health and safety are the top priority. Money could be used to repair or replace roofs, furnaces, windows and other systems and components. In addition, it could be used to modify a home for accessibility.

We have plenty of need. We just need organizations to come up with good ideas and apply for money. Funding is available to local governments, nonprofits and for-profit entities, which could include homebuilders and other contractors.

There's a real opportunity for synergy. For example, a homebuilder could partner with a nonprofit to modify homes for accessibility. The nonprofit would bring expertise in grant writing and administration and would identify and screen eligible homeowners, and the homebuilder would evaluate properties and handle construction. I'm excited about the potential partnerships and opportunities, and I'm hoping to do some matchmaking at the meeting on Monday.

I'm also excited about IHCDA's new approach to funding projects. In the past, funding was tied to specific pots of money. Organizations applied for funding from a particular source. Now IHCDA will fund projects based on their alignment with four strategic priorities: comprehensive community development, aging in place, ending homelessness and high performance building. Applicants will be responsible for proposing high-quality projects, and IHCDA will be responsible for putting together the funding from a variety of potential sources, which could even involve partnering with other state agencies.

Here's how IHCDA defines each priority:

Comprehensive Community Development: Comprehensive development recognizes that a community's potential lies in the identification and creation of a shared vision, planned by local leadership, and carried out by a wide array of partners. When successful, it yields results beyond what can be achieved by individual organizations or disparate programs because of the value they add to each other.

A thriving community is a community with job opportunities, strong schools, safe neighborhoods, diverse housing and a vibrant culture. Comprehensive development marshals resources and deploys comprehensive strategies in a concentrated footprint to serve as a catalyst for community vitality. The demolition of blighted structures, the rehabilitation of housing units and the creation of new uses such as recreational amenities, retail services or employment centers serve as a tipping point for future development by market forces.

Aging in Place: Aging in place refers to adapting our living environment so that it is safe, adaptable and comfortable, increasing the likelihood that everyone can remain independent and continue to thrive in their homes as circumstances change. While the primary target populations for aging in place strategies are seniors and persons with disabilities, everyone benefits from buildings and communities that are accessible and livable.

Ending Homelessness: IHCDA and its partners are focused on systematically preventing and ending homelessness. By identifying an individual's or a family's barriers to self-sufficiency and targeting the most appropriate housing solution, the number of people that enter and the amount of time they spend in the homeless delivery system can be minimized.

For the chronically homeless, those who cycle through health care institutions and correctional facilities seeking services and shelter, linking services with housing provides stability and reduces the burden on other community systems. At the end of the day, our collective goal is to ensure that everyone has a place to call home.

High Performance Building: High performance building integrates with and optimizes the surrounding environment through architectural and site design, construction techniques and materials, as well as resource use and recovery. Done right, high performance building maximizes quality and durability by minimizing environmental impacts and operating costs.

IHCDA's new approach to funding is just the latest example of a state agency focusing on results instead of bureaucracy. We in Southern Indiana should take advantage of the opportunity presented by the special allocation of $23 million. With cooperation and creativity, there will be many more opportunities, and our recent success will be only the beginning.